Shining Resonance: Refrain – REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)

It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the Shining series with my past experience consisting of Shining in the Darkness and the original Shining Force That said with the series going 11 years without a localisation, the same is probably true for a lot of you

You can leave your experience with prior games at the door though as Shining Resonance hardly resembles my memories of past Shining games, this is something entirely different for both the better and worse Shining Resonance is a localisation and remaster of the Japan only PlayStation 3 game of the same name, though a lot has changed since its original debut Japanese players were plagued with excessive layers of in game transactions, going as far as to charge the player for continues upon game over Rest assured, all that is gone in Shining Resonance Refrain This is the complete package and it looks and runs great on Switch

But what exactly is Shining Resonance? Well unlike Shining Force, this isn’t a strategy game Resonance is an action RPG with a huge focus on narrative A vast amount of your time is spent listening to Visual Novel style cut scenes and impressively, the majority of lines are fully dubbed for this localisation with fairly impressive results Some characters certainly offer a more convincing performance than others but the sheer size of the script is rather commendable But what does that matter if the story being told is one you can’t get invested in? Thankfully that’s not quite the case

Shining Resonance tells the story of a battle between two Kingdoms One seeks to prevent a civil war by resurrecting the powerful world dragons but their morals are clouded They experiment on humans and seek power at whatever the cost There’s an interesting back and forth with the narrative where you see and even somewhat symphonise with characters of the opposition but of course they go too far in their vision for peace The game begins in the midst of a rescue for one of the human experiments, Yuma

Yuma is rather special as he maintains the ability to transform into the Shining Dragon, the most powerful of all the world dragons This power can overwhelm him however and he’s therefore hesitant to ever use but a slither of the Shining Dragon’s power This works for both a story and gameplay basis as while in combat, Yuma is able to transform into the Shining Dragon at will and as he gradually gains a better grasp of his control, he’s able to use more of the Shining Dragon’s power in battle This is a great way of keeping the Shining Dragon as a figure of power without making you overpowered in the process Is the first half of the game, the Dragon is unpredictable and can take control away from the player at any time but this grows and develops as the story does

In truth, Shining Resonance is a game with a small scale The story doesn’t diverge too far from the personal battle between Yuma and the Shining Dragon and likewise the world itself only consists of a few small areas with a single town at its centre It’s a rather linear RPG with areas directly stringing together with a very rare diverging path This means you’ll be running through the same fields, the same caves and the same wastelands for 30 hours with nothing but narrative and combat to mix things up This succeeds in striking a feeling of familiarity and having the lone town feel like a rightful home but at the great cost of variety

The town is by no means sprawling with practically everything you need be it a shop or an inn greeting you immediately Shining Resonance is from the era of JRPGs where the budgets of HD development meant a cut in scope and it really shows Despite the large script, story elements can often feel static with even action scenes being played out with sound effects and sword slashes Fully animated sequences appear to be pre-rendered from the PS3 release with clearly lower image quality but it’s very rare that these ever occur It’s a shame that so much of the game feels small as the battle system is one area that consistently grows in an exciting way

The core principles are simple The green ring around your character is essentially their stamina and you’re able to hack and slash at will as long as the ring isn’t empty You’re also able to use magic abilities at the cost of MP and utilise a character specific break attack Breaks aren’t often effective on their own but if they’re utilised while an enemy is casting, it’ll interrupt their attack and cause them to topple over It’s a simple battle system in practise but the depth comes from activities outside of battle

The supporting cast of characters complement each other really well, essentially everyone in your party is a dragoneer which means they’re able to resonate with dragons and use their mystical music to turn the tide of battle This guage over on the left is somewhat of a limit break that grants powerful buffs while also often jarringly changing the music You can customise the properties of all of your party members by tuning their armonics, for instance I could inflict Sonia’s armonic with a fire property cause her standard attacks to be strong against grass monsters There’s also a system fairly similar to Final Fantasy 7’s material where you can slot powers into your weapons that boost your battle stats Then there’s the relationship map which enhances AI team work where you can strengthen by utilising characteristics unlocked from the story, this is a great motivator to check out side quests and really get to know your party outside of battle

The combat systems are really strong but they did take a while to truly come into their own In the opening hours, I was met with some frustrating difficulty spikes that required me to spend time grinding, something that’s made slightly less tedious with the flexibility of the Switch But as you gain more abilities, battles start to become a heck of a lot easier and it got to the point where even if I was 10 levels below both field enemies and bosses I could still tank them by using the Shining Dragon paired with a party of healers That’s not to say I never had problems with the difficulty but I also never had to stop to grind later in the game The more challenging encounters can easily be topped by stocking up on items

Even though the combat’s real time, you still need to pause to use items and you can use as many as you want, so your only limitation there is how much you can afford I did find myself pausing during combat on a fairly regular basis though as while the Shining Dragon can handle most encounters, you still need good support from your party and sometimes the AI just isn’t up to the task You can command them to focus on healing or to be defensive or offensive but sometimes you’re best just doing these moves yourself Despite her MP essentially being full, Yurika wouldn’t revive one of our party members but insisted on draining her magic with other, less helpful moves The AI do this fairly often, they even drain the MP on fights with lower enemies when there’s really no need to

When Yuma’s controlled by the AI, they never seem to unleash the Shining Dragon so even if you prefer other party members, it’s hard not to keep Yuma at the head of the party Having a Secret of Mana styled local option would have been a great way to get over the AI frustrations while also extending the appeal of Shining Resonance but as it stands, you’ll often be battling with the battle system There’s also one brand new element to the Shining Resonance Refrain and that’s unsurprisingly the Refrain mode It’s advised that you tackle this on a second playthrough and I can absolutely see why It’s still the same game but two of the game’s villains are incorporated into the party which obviously makes the story material a tad jarring

It’s a neat option to play through the game again but I can’t suggest you start with it With so many JRPG’s releasing on the Switch this Summer, you’re not really in short supply for choice but if you’re after something a little with a smaller, more personal focus then Shining Resonance might be just for you but keep in mind that such a small focus is also its undoing in many key areas All in all, I liked Shining Resonance It certainly does reach its full potential but not every game needs a large sprawling world to be fun